Last night we played the first match in a best of 3 series with our cross town rivals. This season we have beaten them twice 3-0 and lost once 2-3. Our gym was full of our fans, family and friends all singing and cheering us on.
Game 1 was all Paok. They didn't do anything special but we started off the match with a lot of mistakes. I think we were all trying to calm our nerves and score 2 points with one ball...impossible to do. They gained a big lead on us and we could not respond.
Game 2 we found our groove and settled our nerves. Started passing the ball and keeping the pressure on Paok with our service and strong side out game. We won the set 25-20 or something like that.
Game 3 we took a 13-7 lead and seemed like we were on cruise control. Then we got stuck in one rotation and could not side out of the life of us. Turned into a 16-14 game and then they just kept going with it. They took the set and our confidence. But the nice thing about playoffs is a 3-2 win and has nothing to do with points so we knew we could still win the match.
Game 4 was back and 4th but we turned it on again and ended up moving threw the set fairly easy with some strong service, defense, hitting percentages, etc...We won the set and had to focus on the 5th set.
Game 5 we know could go either way. The team with the most focus and least amount of mistakes is going to win. We started out the set with a 2 point lead and switched sides at 8-7. As we got to the other side our setter, Kostas Prousalis, found his groove from the service line and rallied us to a huge lead...Big enough to relax a bit. Then we were stuck in Row 1 again and they started to rally back scoring 2 straight points. A time out by our coach lead to a service error from Paok and game over.
In my opinion Paok has over achieved their expectations this season and is playing free. This makes any team dangerous to play agains because they don't have any pressure to win. They played like it last night but I hope that our team can remained focused for the second match at their gym on Saturday night. Keep your fingers crossed Iraklis fans!
Here are some photos and video highlights of the match last night: